Kindergarten students sitting on the floor

Stronger early childhood education and schools

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The Victorian Government has continued its investment in early childhood education, with the 2019/2020 Budget delivering $881.7 million to begin the roll out of three-year-old kindergarten across the State. This $5 billion reform, which will give every child in Victoria access to two years of kindergarten by 2029, is one which VCOSS and the community sector have been advocating for a long time. We are delighted to see that work has begun to make it a reality.

VCOSS welcomes the investment in schooling infrastructure, including $647.7 million towards building 100 new schools across the State over the next eight years and $362.7 million to upgrade existing buildings and facilities. We are also pleased to see the expansion of the school breakfast club program ($58 million) to reach 1000 primary, secondary, P-12 and specialist schools, and the rollout of free sanitary items to government school students from term three of 2019. These two election commitments will help ensure that all students, regardless of their background or circumstances, can participate in school.

While we have seen these positive investments in this Budget, VCOSS was disappointed to see that State Schools Relief, which provides affordable school uniforms to students experiencing disadvantage, has only received one additional year of funding. Further, no funding has been provided to extend the Camps, Sports and Excursion Fund beyond the 2019 school year, although we understand that this program will be extended following resolution of Victoria’s bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth.

Investment in training and skills continues, with this budget committing to expand Free TAFE for Priority Courses to add two new early childhood courses to the list, provide additional funding to support TAFEs to roll out this initiative, and increase funding to support eligible students to access subsidised vocational education and training.


Positive initiatives in early childhood development

  • Ready for school: kinder for every three-year-old
    An initial investment has been made to support every Victorian child to access at least five hours per week of subsidised three-year-old kinder by 2022 and to provide them with the skills they need to be ready for school.
    Cost: $90m in 2019/20 ($881.7m/5 years)^ 


  • Maintaining access to high quality and affordable kindergarten
    The Government will provide additional funding to meet growing demand for four-year-old kindergarten through a continuation of initiatives including the Kindergarten Fee Subsidy, Early Start Kindergarten, Early Childhood Teacher Supplement and Ratio Supplement.
    Cost: $27.1m in 2019/20 ($49.7m/3 years)^         


  • Children’s facilities capital program
    Grants will be provided to local councils and eligible providers to build, expand and improve early years infrastructure. This will support additional kindergarten places and give families across Victoria greater access to local kindergartens.
    Cost: $9.8m in 2019/20 ($33.6m/3 years) 


  • Effective and robust early childhood regulatory system
    Funding will be provided to ensure effective and robust oversight of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. The Department’s early childhood regulatory function will continue to assess and rate Victorian ECEC services against the National Quality Standard, inspect ECEC services, investigate and improve compliance with relevant laws and process provider applications.
    Cost: $5.2m in 2019/20 ($6m/2 years)^   


  • Transition early childhood intervention services for the NDIS*
    Funding will continue for early childhood intervention services to support children with a disability or developmental delay from birth to school entry.
    Cost: $3.4m in 2019/20    


  • Ensuring children with significant disability can participate in kindergarten*
    Funding will continue for the Kindergarten Inclusion Support (KIS) program to support children with significant disability or complex needs.
    Cost: $1.6m in 2019/20    


Positive initiatives in schools

  • New schools construction
    The Government will build 17 new schools to open in 2021, contributing to the Government’s commitment to open 100 new schools across Victoria over eight years.
    Cost: $357.6m in 2019/20 ($671.2m/5 years)^


  • School upgrades
    Funding for upgrades will be provided for 59 schools across Victoria. This will improve educational outcomes through the provision of high-quality classrooms and facilities for learning and community use.
    Cost: $117m in 2019/20 ($362.7m/5 years)^    


  • Affordable school uniforms
    Funding will be provided to support State Schools’ Relief to provide free school uniform items and other essential items to government school students experiencing financial hardship.
    Cost: $5m in 2019/20  


  • Glasses for kids
    The Glasses for Kids program will be extended to assist children from Prep to Year 3 with a visual impairment in government schools in disadvantaged areas, by providing for vision screening and free glasses if needed.
    Cost: $0.3m in 2019/20


  • Free tampons and pads in all public schools
    Sanitary items will be provided free of charge at all government schools from term three of 2019.
    Cost: $6.2m in 2019/20 ($20.6m/4 years)     


  • School Breakfast Club Expansion Program
    The School Breakfast Club Program will be expanded to reach 1000 primary, secondary, P-12 and specialist schools. The program will also provide eligible students with free school lunches and school holiday supplies, and introduce targeted meal preparation and nutrition classes for parents and children at 100 schools.
    Cost: $9.3m in 2019/20 ($58m/4 years)     


  • Program for Students with Disabilities*
    Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) funding will be provided to support eligible students with disability through the 2019 and 2020 school years. Funding will also continue for the Language and Learning Disabilities Support Program, through which schools support students with low to moderate levels of need who do not meet the PSD threshold.
    Cost: $88.8m in 2019/20 ($179.7m/2 years)   


  • Students with Disabilities Transport Program*
    This program assists eligible students with disability to travel to and from school. Funding is provided to help the program meet demand and growth expectations and to replace buses.
    Cost: $4.8m in 2019/20 ($9.9m/3 years)^    


  • Anti-bullying supports for school students
    Funding will be provided to strengthen the suite of anti-bullying responses and supports for schools.
    Cost: $1.7m in 2019/20 ($5.8m/4 years) 


  • Engaging at-risk youth
    The engaging at-risk youth program will offer education programs for young people at risk of disengagement.
    Cost: $1.9m in 2019/20   


  • Enhanced behaviour support and intervention for schools
    Funding will be provided to the end of 2019 to continue to build the capability of the school workforce to prevent and reduce problem behaviours, and to provide safe and inclusive environments for all students.
    Cost: $1.1m in 2019/20  


Positive initiatives for Training, Higher Education and Workforce Development

  • Free TAFE for early childhood courses
    The Government will make training at TAFE free for early childhood courses from 2020. Eligible students enrolling in Certificate III/Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care will pay no course tuition fees for the duration of their TAFE courses from the 2020 calendar year.
    Cost: $4.8m in 2019/20 ($28.4m/4 years)


  • Responding to Victorian jobs growth with more training
    The Government will continue to support eligible students to enhance their skills and employability by providing subsidised vocational education and training. In addition, the Asylum Seeker Vocational Education and Training Program will provide continued support to eligible asylum seekers and refugees to access training.
    Cost: $2.2m in 2019/20 ($82.6m/2 years) 


  • Supporting Free TAFE for priority courses
    Additional funding will be provided to respond to strong demand for the 30 priority non-apprenticeships and 20 apprenticeship pathway courses to ensure the TAFE system can accommodate the growth and eligible Victorians can access these opportunities.
    Cost: $21.2m in 2019/20 ($41.2m/2 years)^ 


  • Building Better TAFEs Fund – Regional TAFEs*
    Three regional TAFE upgrade and redevelopment projects will improve lifelong education pathways. The following institutions will receive funding through the initial round of the Building Better TAFEs Fund:

    • GOTAFE – Health and Community Services Training Facility;
    • The Gordon – Culinary School, Geelong; and
    • South West TAFE – Library and Learning Hub.

Cost: $8.5m ($46.3m/3 years)


  • Building Better TAFEs Fund – Metropolitan TAFEs
    This budget provides funding for the upgrade and redevelopment of the Box Hill Institute Lilydale Campus – Integrated Centre for Sustainable Construction Technologies, and funding for high-level planning and concept design work for Melbourne Polytechnic’s Collingwood campus modernisation and Chisholm Institute’s Frankston campus.
    Cost: $6m in 2019/20 ($10.2m/2 years) 


  • Apprenticeship Support Officers*
    Apprenticeship Support Officers will continue to provide apprentices with advice and assistance to improve apprenticeship retention and completions across regional Victoria and metropolitan Melbourne.
    Cost: $4.7m in 2019/20  


Further strategies

A number of further strategies that were not included in the 2019/20 Budget could bring significant benefits for Victorians. VCOSS will be advocating for these initiatives over the coming year, in the lead up to the 2020/21 Victorian Budget, as well as ongoing funding for existing programs and program reform.


  • Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund
    VCOSS will continue to advocate for ongoing funding for the Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund. This important program helps to support families meet the rising costs of education by enabling students to attend activities including school trips, sport programs and education excursions. This program has only been funded for the 2019 school year in the 2018–2019 Budget. VCOSS understands that this program will be refunded, following resolution of current bilateral funding negotiations with the Commonwealth Government.


  • Make the Program for Students with Disability (PSD) needs-based and provide targeted funding support for students with low to moderate needs
    While there was additional funding for the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) to support eligible students with disability through the 2019 and 2020 school years, this funding is keeping up with population growth only. Currently, around 15 per cent of Victorian students require additional help to participate equally in the classroom, however only 4 per cent of students qualify for specialist funding. This means that approximately 60,000 students are missing out on funding that could maximise their learning.
    VCOSS has long called for a complete overhaul of the PSD, which will require major service redesign and funding. A comprehensive 2016 review of the PSD recommended developing a new funding model. In response, the Victorian Department of Education and Training trialled a new functional needs assessment involving around 1000 students from over 100 schools in south western and south eastern Victoria in 2018. Based on these results and evaluation of the pilot, the Victorian Government should develop a new funding model to ensure that every student with disability is able to fully and actively participate in school.


  • Provide free school transport passes for students from families facing disadvantage
    A good education starts with getting to school. Some families cannot afford a myki, let alone a lump-sum payment of $607 for a full-year student pass, which is currently the cheapest option. To rectify this, the Victorian Government can provide a free school transport pass to every school-aged child whose parent or guardian has a health care card.
    In NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT, the government already provides free or substantially discounted school travel for students experiencing disadvantage. A successful pilot myki project in western Melbourne that provides free public transport passes for disadvantaged students has recently been extended to 15 schools and is showing promising results in promoting student engagement.


  • Introduce a sport and recreation subsidy scheme to help families experiencing disadvantage
    Playing organised sport improves children’s physical activity, mental health and social skills. Participation in music programs improves school attendance, academic achievement and social and emotional wellbeing, with students facing disadvantage benefiting most. But more than 40 per cent of children from disadvantaged backgrounds miss out on sport, as well as activities like drama, art and music, due to high costs.
    Victoria is the only Australian state without a subsidy scheme to help. Every other state has one, providing up to $200 each year for students experiencing disadvantage. The NSW scheme started last year, with families using nearly half a million vouchers, including strong participation of Aboriginal students, and students with disability, from CALD backgrounds, and living in regional and remote communities.


* These initiatives are included in our analysis of other key portfolio areas also.

^ These initiatives include new funding for 2018/19. This has been included in the total cost and years of funding where relevant.